This monster post was originally posted in 2020. Happily, I am less monstrous now.
Being a Monster
I don’t need a Halloween costume this year. I already look like a monster. The medication I’m on to stop my body killing me (condition lamented here) has made my face swell up. Like a moon. It is a well documented side effect actually referred to as ‘moonface’. The same drug is also causing insomnia so I have massive eye bags that extend to what feels like halfway down my face. There’s quite a lot of bandage action across my body too, which adds an air of mummification fun to the whole ensemble.
I’m also pale. Pale like a ghost.
A Historical Monster
However, being a monster on the outside, in appearance, is nothing to being truly monstrous. While researching witch-hunting in preparation for writing THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, I wanted to find a real monster, a person so enthused for the brutal activity that they could become a focal point for that dark energy in the story. History did not give him up easily. There was no obvious individual in the court documents or confessions. But I hunted him down and finally cornered the rogue in the financial accounts of Aberdeen.
In September 1597 William Dunn, Dean of Guild, was awarded, £47 3s 4d (the equivalent of £6000 in today’s money) for taking ‘extraordinary pains in the burning of a great number of witches’. It was unusual for someone to be given a large lump sum like this. With the exception of some witch prickers and those who sought to escheat their rich relatives, money was not commonly a motivating factor in the witch trials. William Dunn’s job was being in charge of the public money of the town, so he basically gave the cash to himself. I found you Sir, and I made you smell of rotten fish! If you read the historical notes section of the book, you’ll see that I’ve also cast him as the devil.
So now I’m editing FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE and, 150 years later, there is brief mention of the Dean of Guild again. It does seem to be a role associated with making money from the suffering of others, at least, historically, in Aberdeen.
There’s a review I forgot to mention earlier, being rather distracted by the task of becoming a monster. It’s from Undiscovered Scotland: “The Mermaid and the Bear is a delight from end to end. There is a superb level of description in the book, that transports the reader back to the sights, sounds and smells of 16th Century life in a Scottish castle.” See the whole review here.
A spooky wee quote for this spooky old season:
Chosen Sisters, Romans and Romance
Set in 1st century Scotland, my latest book, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance.
“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society
See the press release here
Review from Terry Tyler: “It’s a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written. It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life. Loved it.“
Read the article Roman Aberdeenshire features in author’s new book from Grampian Online.
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100 Replies to “On Monsters: being one, writing one…”
Good luck with your health issues and your book which I will one day make time to read as it sounds delightful!
Thank you 🙂
What Pam said. And courage. You do what you must.
Thank you, I will 🙂
Fingers crossed that the health stuff goes well.
Money played a large role in a lot of witchcraft trials. One book on the subject said English towns that didn’t want to hire a witchfinder usually didn’t have any trials.
There were some entrepreneurial types around!
Hope you start feeling better soon. That sounds miserable, I’m sorry.
Thank you 🙂
Hi Alisha. Sorry to hear of your health condition. If you believe that God heals, I hope you do, then I shall pray with and for you for His healing touch to come upon you. God bless.
Thank you for your prayers Phillip.
So sorry to hear of your ongoing physical problems, Ailish. But I enjoyed the interesting facts you uncovered during your monster search. Your commitment to finding and including the historical facts in your fiction is inspiringly exemplary. Although I don’t write fiction (at least I haven’t yet, but who knows?), I appreciate good historical research. Praying that you recover fully and speedily!
Thank you. I do enjoy the research!
The idea of a monster is fascinating to me because under the right circumstances many of us are capable of monstrous acts. As you said though, it’s rare to find someone who truly takes pleasure from such things (I imagine; although I suppose we could also be made to feel that what we’re doing is *good* and thus enjoy it).
Sorry to hear about the autoimmune condition; I hope it’s one that at best completely clears up and at worst is easily manageable! I have a chronic disease myself and although it sounds not nearly as bad as what you’re going through, I understand how depressing the prospect of living with pain for the rest of ones life is.
I suppose I am living in hope that it won’t be for the rest of my life. Some people do go into permanent remission. I hope your condition improves too.
Sending you virtual hugs Ailish in the hopes that you recover soon. Thanks for the shout out about the book challenge.
Thank you Rosie, and you’re welcome 🙂
I wish you well! It’s quite commendable that, in the face of adversity, you continue to move forward on writing/editing. All the best.
The writing keeps me going, still feeling a bit like me.
Sending you lots of love and very best wishes for a good, quick recovery. We’re looking forward to your books of course, but please look after yourself, that’s more important!
Thank you 🙂
Pale moon face in a month with a blue moon on Halloween . . . there’s something eerie about your situation. I certainly hope your treatment makes things easier in the long run. Speaking of eerie, I love your character’s quote!
It is all a bit eerie!
Hope you are better soon.
Mr. Dunn sounds like a true monster. You have inspired me to research deeper. Jillian Chantal
Sending you all the best wishes for good health, and quickly.
Prayers for a calm body, mind and spirit!
So sorry to hear you are not well. All best wishes for a good recovery.
So sorry to hear about your health issues. Sending healing thoughts your way! Your book is on my to-read list. I hope to get to it soon!
Hope you are receiving the very best of care, Ailish… Such an interesting post about the monster of Aberdeen!
I am really lucky with the care I’m getting. Yes, he was a baddy!
Reminds me of history’s examples and a quote I ran across recently….””Sometimes, in the effort to amass wealth, there is little concern for where it comes from, whether it was produced legitimately or whether others were exploited in the process,” — Pope Francis – recently… but ages old observation – 🙂
Absolutely relevant today.
Reading you weren’t dressing up this year I got upset for you, thinking you were just too busy to enjoy the holidays but the reason was worse, I’m sorry to hear about your condition and I hope it gets better for you!
This post was great, the witchtrails and monsters you talk about are really interesting!!!
Thank you, and glad you found the post interesting 🙂
I really enjoyed your post. Sorry to hear about your health issues and hope your feeling better soon. I love the sound of your book and intend to buy it once I have read a couple I am busy with.
Thank you, glad you enjoyed the post.
Sorry to hear of your condition but emboldened by the vibrancy of your imagination and resilience of spirit. Happy Halloween!
Happy Halloween to you too!
Thinking of you, lovely. I knew a bit of this but…I’m so sorry to hear this. Sending love and light your way. Fabulous post with lots of great news. Cheers to that!
Thank you Sarah 🙂
Thanks for writing such painful truth, thanks for your wonderful writing, and also, thanks to Priscilla, for the maybe-blue moon alert, if, by any faint chance, the rain stops.
Today, I must contact a uni friend, also on medication that’s changed her appearance, but helps her to live with a serious auto-immune problem.
Only four when my bed was moved around a children’s hospital, for weeks, so no photos of the views, but most of all, I remember the scents of spring arriving, including balsam poplars in a park across the road.
It’s those glimpses of nature that are so important, I think, when stuck in an institutional setting. I remember enjoying the feel of the rain when passing between school buildings in my youth too.
Hope you will get better.
Thank you 🙂
So sorry to hear about your health issues. I hope you get well soon!
Thank you 🙂
I am touched by your own personal story dealing with your difficult condition, and impressed with your imagination turning into literature. Wishing you well with both!
Thank you so much 🙂
Good luck with everything. I really admire you posting about this and am happy about your writing! I will have to check these out!
Thank you 🙂
You’re welcome! 🙂
The example of William Dunn is chilling and fascinating.
Sorry that you’re going through crap at the moment. Hope things resolve and get better ASAP
Thank you 🙂
I do hope your health conditions improve soon.
They are, slowly, thank you 🙂
Sorry to hear that your medication is giving you unpleasant side effects. I hope your condition improves soon.
Yikes, witch hunts and hunters were never pleasant, but it’s sickening to think of someone collecting so much money for the suffering of others. A sound choice for a monster.
I do like to expose monsters 🙂
I’m sorry to hear about your health problem I hope you recover soon, I mention your book(Mermaid and the Bear) to my wife and she duly purchased it! I’m certainly looking forward to reading it.
Thank you. I hope you both enjoy the book 🙂
I always enjoy your posts and your historical notes. So glad you keep on keeping on despite the health challenges. Autoimmune stuff can be really rough, as well as the side effects of the medicine to treat it. Here’s hoping for the best possible outcomes!
As a writer, I’m sure you are mining the experience for the treasures it hides, and the empathy you discover for perceived “monsters”. (I still have residual facial paralysis from getting Bell’s Palsy 35 years ago. As a result of the contortions my face has gone through, I no longer assume that people with scowls are necessarily expressing their feelings. And I know what it is to miss being able to smile “normally”…) Hang in there.
Thank you so much. All these experiences shape us and give us more understanding of the world and the people in it. Learning not to assume anything about anyone and what they’re going through is a biggie. I hope you don’t have pain with your facial issues.
I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this with your body. I cannot imagine something so awful as your own body attaching you. I’ve been going through my own adventures with my health but it is nothing like what you’re going through. Do they know what causes this attack?
They don’t know. There are theories and studies. Stress is definitely a trigger, though not the cause.
Oh, Ailish! I am so sorry you are having such troubles. I do hope you feel better soon and the drugs work. I loved reading your ‘monster’ research and congratulations on the excellent review!
Thank you Clare 🙂
Sending healing vibes.
Off to check out The Mermain and the Bear.
Hi Ailish. Hope you’re feeling better. Thanks for liking my post on Don Quixote. Best, Guy
A bit better thanks, and you’re welcome 🙂
If you’ve contacted me though the site contact form, I am a little behind catching up with emails from there but I will get to you 🙂
Thank you I will attempt to resend my message via your web contact form. Perhaps it would be best if you removed the entry above. Good health to you.
Great content! I appreciate you swinging by my blog and am grateful to have had the opportunity to absorb yours. Keep up the great work!
You too 🙂
I’m thinking of you Ailish and hope these health things start to get better big hugs
Thank you 🙂
Your books sound delightful. I just bought Mermaid and the Bear. Hope to read it soon in my 21 in 2021 campaign 🙂
I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Wishing you the best recovery possible.
Thank you 🙂
I hope you feel better soon ❤️
This is an older post. I am much better now. Thank you 🙂
I am glad you feel better. Your books are really promising.
Thank you 🙂
Ailish, prayers for you and best wishes in all things. ❤
Thank you so much 🙂